Best food in San Francisco & The East Bay – Markets (produce, cheese, meat, fish, bakeries, coffee etc)
This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or list every shop in the area ... only the best.
If there isn’t a website, I listed a Chowhound report with the address. A newspaper article is the link if there were no Chowhound reports. Searching Chowhound will result in good tips for many of these shops.
I’ll update periodically with the suggestions in this topic noting additions with an edit comment at the end of this post.
I keep this list for my own info, so I don’t have to keep googling for websites. I would ask people NOT link to this in the future when questions about the best market, bakery, etc. are asked on the board.
Things change and it might discourage some great new hint. After a few days when a topic has run its course, then it's ok to link to this post as supplemental info, if anyone wants to.
*** Tops in its category IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion)
BAKERIES AND BREAD
*** Acme (SF, Berkeley, various markets)
Arizmendi / Cheeseboard (SF, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland
Bay Bread Boulangerie (SF)
Bread Garden (Oakland)
Emporio Rulli (SF & Marin)
Feel Good Bakery - Alameda
Golden Gate Bakery (pork buns, custard tarts) (SF) scroll waaay down
La Farine (Berkeley - morning buns)
Liguria (SF- focaccia)
*** Lola’s (Berkeley)
Masse's Pastries (Berkeley)
Sweet Adeline (Berkeley) http://www.imaginature.org/sweetadeline/index.htm
Tartine Bakery (SF)
Victoria Bakery (SF)
24th Street Cheese Co (SF) (scroll down
Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese Shop (SF) http://www.arizmendibakery.com/
*** The Cheese Board, (Berkeley) http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/History/CheesePizzaHistory.html
COFFEE AND TEA
Blue Bottle (SF, Berkeley)
Caffé Roma (SF)
*** Graffeo (SF)
Martha & Brothers Coffee (SF)http://www.marthabros.com/aboutus.html
Peet's Coffee (various locations)http://www.peets.com/default.asp
Far Leaves Tea (Berkeley, Emeryville
Imperial Tea (SF, Berkeley
*** Teance (Albany)
Ten Ren Tea (SF
This is not my area of expertise and I hope people will post about the well known shops. There are many markets and shops in the Mission, Chinatown, and Clement Street offering fresh meat, seafood and produce at rock bottom prices. Upper Geary has many Eastern European shops.
FARMERS MARKETS & FARMS
Berkeley Farmers Markets (Berkeley) http://www.ecologycenter.org/bfm/
*** Ferry Plaza (SF)
Old Oakland (Oakland) http://www.urbanvillageonline.com/oldoakland/index.html
SF Civic Center (SF)
Other area farmers markets
A.G. Ferrari (various locations)
Genova Deli (Oakland) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/05/07/PK8623.DTL
Lucca Delicatessen (SF)
Molinari Delicatessen (SF)
Alameda Marketplace (Alameda
Andronico's (various locations)
*** Berkeley Bowl (Berkeley) http://www.berkeleybowl.com/pages/main.html
Bi-Rite Market (SF)
Ferry Plaza Market Place
Mollie Stone's (various locations)
Natural Grocery Companies (Berkeley & El Cerrito
Rainbow Grocery, (SF)
The Pasta Shope (Oakland, Berkeley
Whole Foods (various locations)
MEAT AND SEAFOOD MARKETS
The above markets all have good meat and seafood departments. Check ethnic markets for inexpensive and fresh (even live) products. This article from the SF Chronicle discusses “building a repertoire with the local fishmonger”
The most farmers markets have fish and meat vendors. The Alemany market, for example, sells live chickens and you can buy a hundred small oysters from Pt Reyes Oyster for as little as $35. The Ferry Plaza Market has a number of top of the line meat vendors like Hoffman chickens and game birds. Many vendors, especially seafood, are dependant upon weather and season. They may not be there every week.
Barron's Meats (Alameda
Bobby Lees Country Smokehouse
Bryan's (SF)` (and other butcher shops)
Café Rouge (Berkeley)
Ferry Plaza Merchants (SF)
Guerra Quality Meats (SF) http://www.sunsetbeacon.com/archives/SunsetBeacon/2003editions/Aug03/guerra.html
Little City Market (SF) See Bryan’s link
Monterey Fish (Berkeley)
*** Tokyo Fish (Berkeley)
Ver Brugge Foods (Oakland ... see Bryan’s Link) http://www.rockridgeshop.com/pages/ver_brugge.html
Boulette’s Larder (SF)
(more yum info until website completed – scroll down
Scharffen Berger (various locations) http://www.scharffenberger.com/
Sees (various locatios)
*** XOX (SF, Oakland)
*** Note: Edited July 20 about 11 pm to include most of the shops mentioned up to that time. There are a few pending: Real Foods, Say Cheese, Cole Coffee and Village Market ... and who knew Monterey Market had a website ... good for them.
First off, I gotta say that I disagree with some people about the Pasta Shop. I've never had empolyees go so far out of their way to help me with something. The coconut flan alone at the Rockridge location is worth going back for. The cheese selection is excellent, the staff is well trained and knowledgable, and loves to let people taste. Yeah, I will admit the markup can be high on canned/bottled items, but they're not generally the things you go there for anyways.
Next rant... Berkeley Bowl. God, do I ever love the selection and the prices are normal grocery store to better, but I can't stand the parking and I have even less love for (dare I say it) the patrons. Please take this in the nicest, most constructive criticism way, but Berkeley bowl shoppers can be the rudest, pushiest, most arrogant, self-aggrandizing, solpisistic, ankle-bashing-with-their-carts doofi I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. It's like bottled Berkeley PC concentrate in there. As much as I love the place, the gauntlet I have to run just to get good veggies makes it not worth the trip.
Okay, enough of the rants. A few other places in the Bay area that weren't yet mentioned but are worth a look...
Lion (primarily South Bay)- Asian food grocery store. Great selection and prices. Always surrounded by the most spendid collection of asian shops.
High-end grocery store (and kitchenware). I wouldn't get the everyday things there, but the specialty items, the deli, pastry, and meat counters are first rate.
Grace Baking (various markets in the bay area
The pugliese is one of the best anywhere.
Tea and coffee:
Ten Ren Tea (SF and Milpitas
The rose pearl tea is to die for
Sogo Bakery (South Bay locations
Well, even though it isn't anywhere near ready to post, since there are some South Bay suggesions, here's a similar topic for the South Bay.
Grace is sort of like Fatted Calf ... they don't have a retail shop so it gets lumped under great markets that carry it. In Fatted Calf's case, farmers markets. I do miss the Grace Bakery shop though. They made the best yule logs.
Because it can't be said enough: Berkeley Bowl. Best selection of produce anywhere (a stunned NYer I took there once said "the produce section is bigger than all of Fairway"). Good selection of meats, including "natural" meats and poultry. I don't buy much fish, but the fish selection always looks good. Great selection of interesting shelf goods and dairy products. Greek yogurt? French butter? They have it, and the prices are more in line with supermarket prices than specialty store prices. Decent cheese selection (not up to a specialty cheese shop, but adequate for most purposes). Lines are long, but the checkers keep things moving quickly (and they're amazing at correctly identifying the varieties of produce, with help from some arcane colored dot marking system). The parking lot can be insane, but it's usually fairly easy to find a spot nearby on the street.
One thing people may not realize is that it's about a five-minute walk from the Ashby BART station, so it's accessible to everyone.
All that said, I hardly ever go there anymore, because I live across the street from:
Alameda Marketplace: a market hall with a great wine and cheese store, natural grocery, butcher, fishmonger and a bakery that makes some of the best bread in the area. Worth a visit if you're anywhere nearby.
re: Ruth Lafler
re: Ruth Lafler
I find myself in Alameda often and The Alameda Marketplace *is* swell. The walnut levain at FeelGood Bakery is my favorite bread in the world right now. And,Berkeley Bowl is lovely (It's my local market), but you can't get a decent organic peach there (and for the living museum of produce that it is, having bad peaches is close to criminal), but the organic peaches I got recently at the Alameda Natural Grocery w/in the Marketplace were fabulous and I'm the world's pickiest peach eater.
I've been eating bread from Feel Good since Day 1, and it just keeps getting better. I love the French baguettes with the thin, crisp crust and tender interior -- they make a nice change from the chewier Bay Area style. The Wholey-Moley is my favorite whole grain bread, and when I served the epi at a recent wine tasting a couple of people commented that it was better than Acme, which is high praise indeed! They recently started offering croissants on a regular basis, and they're excellent, especially the almond criossant.
Oh, and they'll sell a half loaf if you ask, which is great for a single person like me who can't finish a whole loaf before it gets stale.
re: Ruth Lafler
re: Ruth Lafler
FeelGood also has very good pizza by the slice, though they can be flakey about having any ready until well after noon sometimes. The crust is excellent, much better than Arizmendi which has a comparable style of pizza (no sauce, unique toppings that change every day).
I think that Feel Good compares to Acme. But I am more likely to get a loaf of Feel Good's bread hot out of the oven than a hot loaf of Acme which I usually buy at the grocery.
I'd add the Pasta Shop cheese counters, but espec the Rockridge one. Not a huge selection, but they're generous with samples, knowledgeable and nice.
Most of the stuff at the Pasta Shop (prepped food) doesn't wow me, but their smoked mussels and very good selection of salami, ham, etc. always bring me back. Also their spicy tofu salad is really good.
I wouldn't buy anything canned or jarred there cause the mark up is way too high for my poor old wallet.
Also the Southwest Chicken Sausages at Enzo's are great!
I also like Paul Marcus for their many bottles of reasonable wines. Also for the fact that they actually TRY the wines and their written comments mean something.
I've never been to Ritual. Do they sell their own beans or is it just a coffee shop, so to speak?
I forgot completly about Say Cheese on Cole. I really liked their sandwiches. Can you say a little more about the cheese selection? Also a bit more about Real Foods. Are both locations equally good?
Bay Breads and Victoria are like Emporio Rulli, they do some things very, very well and others, eh. Actually a good percentage of the bakeries in that list you could say the same about.
Bay Bread does, for my tastes an outstanding Quiche Lorraine, lemon tart and almond croissant. Others like the cannelles and French Macroons (not personally wowed by either).
IMO, Victoria is one of the better non-upscale Italian Bakeries ... although there's another bakery on Green whose name I'm blanking on right now that is starting to move up. They were just sold and the quality keeps getting better.
Yeah, Martha & Brothers, I guess not a destination, but good for the neighborhood. Don't have the slightest opinion on Bryans but it ususally gets good posts on the board. Why don't you liked them (and that's probobably opening a pandora box).
Dianda's..famous (infamous!) for their "DILDEAUX" ...chocolate rum filled with crackly sugar glaze (Beard Papa eat your heart out!)
These won big at our Chowhound Picnic...for discovered purchased product....(I forgot the non x-rated name for these...but the staff usully giggles whn I ask for them and know exctly what I' referring to!)